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10 Lessons from 10,000km.


Date: Monday 21 December, 2015
Distance: 63.3km | Elevation: 713m
Start kms: 9951.5km | End kms: 10,014.8km | % complete: 100%

Monday afternoon marked the technical end to my 2015 goal. 

Pedalling headlong into perpetual winds and driving, painful rain, I moved through the five-figure threshold with ten days to spare. 

Yes, I had small reservoirs collecting in the bottom of my shoes. Yes, my face burnt from the relentless beating it had taken at the hands of the enormous water drops that had been propelled into it by 30mph winds. And yes, I suffered one final puncture, as if to remind me just how lucky I’d been over the last 355 days. 

It wasn’t quite the ceremonious end I’d envisaged, but after a year of incredible riding it was somewhat fitting, and I enjoyed it nonetheless.

A little over 10,000km of riding equates to a total of 446 hours and 13 minutes spent in the saddle. That translates to 18 and a half full days of constant pedalling, or 5% of 2015. 

That’s quite a lot, and the experience has taught me a little more than the fact that I do indeed enjoy riding bikes. 

1. We are what we consistently do. 
Achieving what you set out to do doesn’t require getting up every day and taking an enormous chunk out of your goal. In my case, it was simply a case of placing my backside into my saddle almost every day and starting to push through the pedals. Sometimes I rode 90km, others I just rode 9km — the important thing is I rode and continued to push on in the right direction.

2. Break it down. 
10,000km is a large, intimidating goal if you look at it as one big number — big enough to put you off trying to make any real dent it. Break it down a level: 833km each month. That still sounds like quite a lot. Chip away still further; 192km per week sounds more manageable and 27km each day certainly starts to sound achievable. 

Had I focused solely on the end-point, the best I could have hoped for was a vaguely miserable uphill struggle for much of the year. Taking it one ride at a time kept it fun and it kept me sane. 

3. Take the long road. 
The shortest route is always the quickest and most direct (obviously). But more often than not, it isn't the easiest and is never the most enjoyable way of getting from Point A to Point B. 

4. Lay your kit out (and pre-pack your bag).
The hardest rides this year were not the day-long jaunts into the countryside or the multi-day excursions across chunks of the country. They brought with them anticipation that built over days and weeks as we discussed details and finalised specifics. When the day to ride arrived, alarms were almost unnecessary. I struggled to sleep through the excitement, wheeling my bike out of the front door at the first sign of light. 

The difficult moments were those dark, wet mornings. I knew the sun wouldn’tbe attempting to make an appearance. My entire body ached. I was acutely aware I’d be struggling into extra layers of clothing and adding detritus to my bike in order to make the half-hour journey to the office. 

On those days, only having to throw on my backpack and slip into my shoes helped. A lot. 

5. Never leave home without at least two inner-tubes.
Punctures pay no heed to distance. They might occur in the middle of nowhere as the rain bounces off your helmet and the wind blows your wheel-less tyre around like a windsock. However, they’re equally likely to strike as you meander to your weekend brunch spot, leaving you frustrated, late and hungry. 

Be prepared. 

6. Do it with friends.
Riding solo is fun. You’re only responsible for yourself, riding at your own pace, and to your own rhythm. But riding with friends is better. Sharing in the journey you’re able to push each other on, offer and receive support when a tired head starts to move closer towards the handlebars. Best of all, you get to relive it all over again over coffee when it’s done. 

Friends also make excellent wind-breaks. 

7. Tell people. 
On that note, make yourself accountable. Wherever possible, I’d do my best to organise a ride with someone else. It’s more difficult to let someone else down rather than just yourself. 

If that failed, I’d usually tell a few people what I intended on doing. Maybe I’m too proud, but when someone asks ‘How did the ride go this morning?’, I don’t like telling them I couldn’t be bothered in the end. 

8. The mornings are yours.
Between 05:30 and 8:00am lie some of my favourite hours of the day. The roads are quiet, the air’s a little crisper and a low-lying sun gives the light a warmth that vanishes as the day progresses (assuming it’s there in the first place, of course). 

Within those hidden hours lies a far simpler fact: those hours are mine and mine alone. The days meetings and work responsibilities have yet to take hold. Evening obligations are a long way off. That task that will inevitably overrun by a couple of hours and leave you rushing home has yet to start. The fact is, as the day goes on, circumstances change and the best-intentioned plans made that morning can easily become fruitless (and they often do).

Don’t do it later. Do it now. 

9. It’s all relative. 
Distance is like time. In theory, one kilometre is 1,000 metres on any day of the week — ultimately, the value is absolute. And yet, in the same way an hour spent in the company of friends goes by quicker than an hour spend labouring at a desk, a ride that once required careful planning and preparation quickly becomes the norm. 

So success and achievement operate on a relative scale, adhering to the law of diminishing returns. Doing something once is an accomplishment, but the second time is repetition. By the third, fourth or fifth time round it’s routine, laying there foundations for a fresh challenge. 

10. It’s not about going fast. It’s about going far. 
Given I’ve set up a cycling collective around the idea, this one goes without saying. It’s also something I learnt incredibly quickly.

Power outputs, cadence, average speeds — I’ve tried looking over and analysing my stats and found it difficult to care. For me, the magnetic pull of the road doesn’t emanate from the possibility of setting a new personal best. It’s the undiscovered roads, the thrill of the journey, the sharing of new experiences and, of course, the indulgent rest stops.

As the year draws to a close, I’ll be ending it by taking part in the challenge that started this whole project off for me: The Festive 500. I’m not sure if it’s a warm down following a busy year on the bike, or a warm-up to what will no doubt be a similarly paced 2016. All I know is I want to keep riding. 

From there, it’s about turning 10,000km from a personal challenge into a far-reaching cycle collective. It’s already begun and it will no doubt continue to grow as the weeks and months go on. 

Join us, won’t you?